A&E departments in Sussex hit by ‘unprecedented demand’

Eastbourne DGH, District General Hospital.
Eastbourne DGH, District General Hospital.

Sussex A&E departments are being hit by an influx of patients, with an increase of around 30 per cent on last year.

A statement issued by NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) across Sussex, said NHS services are facing an unprecedented demand across East and West Sussex.

This comes as unconfirmed reports of a ‘serious incident’ at the A&E department at Eastbourne DGH are surfacing.

However the hospital said reports the A&E department closed yesterday are untrue, but the department was ‘very busy’.

NHS emergency and urgent care services in Sussex saw a significant increase in demand at the start of 2015, with the number of people calling 999 during January 3-4, up by close to 30 per cent on the equivalent weekend in 2014.

South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) received more than 6,000 calls (6,258) at the weekend across its region – close to 1,400 more than the number received across the weekend of 4-5 Jan last year (4,861) – an increase of about 28 per cent.

Within this increase, calls categorised as being the most serious and life-threatening only increased by just under 100.

During New Year’s Eve, the Trust handled more than 1,100 calls between 10pm and 4am – an average of more than three calls a minute.

A&E and out-of-hours GP services across Sussex and Surrey have also been extremely busy.

More than 7,000 people visited emergency departments in Sussex and east Surrey during January 2-4, and out-of-hours services recorded a 30 per cent surge in activity.

NHS services across the region are working together to provide the best care possible for all patients who need help during this time of unprecedented demand, while stressing the importance of the public using the NHS 111 helpline, walk-in clinics, local GPs and pharmacists as a first point of call for non-emergency conditions.


Sue Braysher, Chief Officer for NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG and Chief Operating Officer for NHS Crawley CCG, said, “A&E and 999 are for emergencies - if it’s not an emergency, other services are available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“We know that 1 in 3 visits to A&E could be dealt with outside of hospital. People often think that visiting their local A&E or calling 999 is their only option when their GP surgery is closed, but this is not the case.

“There are lots of services that offer treatment and advice in the evenings and at the weekend, including local pharmacists (who are trained to help deal with minor ailments), walk in centres, NHS 111 and out-of-hours GP services.”

Dr Jane Pateman, Medical Director of South East Coast Ambulance Service said, “Knowing where to go and who to call is key. Please remember that 999 should be used for seriously-ill or injured patients only, and NHS 111 can put you in touch with the out-of-hours service when you need it and your local GP surgery is closed, or when you cannot contact your GP surgery. NHS 111 in Sussex is run by the ambulance service. The helpline can also tell you where your nearest walk-in clinic is and late-night pharmacies. They can even call an ambulance for you if you do need to go to A&E.”

Responding to the publication of figures which show pressures in England’s A&E departments has now reached record levels, Dr Mark Porter, British Medical Association council chairman, said, “Patients should be treated on the basis of need, rather than arbitrary targets, but these figures show the NHS is under unprecedented levels of pressure.

“Staff are working flat out but the system is struggling to cope with the sheer number of patients coming through the door. Growing pressure on services throughout the year means hospitals have no spare capacity to deal with the winter spike in demand. So patients are enduring delays in their treatment, and the NHS finds itself running just to stand still.

“Doctors must be able to treat the patient who’s in front of them based on their individual needs, which is why doctors don’t agree with targets for targets’ sake.

“Moving away from a system which prioritises targets above all else can help to improve the quality of care doctors are able to give patients by preventing rushed admissions or leaving those most in need waiting longer for treatment. But this will only work in the best interests of patients if the NHS has the staff and resources it needs to meet rising patient demand.

“In the longer term, for the NHS to meet rising demand we need to address the underlying problems in the system. Preventing unnecessary A&E admissions by having an effective, out-of-hours telephone service is an important part of this, so there needs to be a marked improvement in NHS 111 to ensure it is clinician-led. We also need a long-term solution to the crisis in social care, to reduce the number of patients being inappropriately held in hospitals. Outside of hospitals, we need to support general practice which is struggling to cope with unprecedented levels of demand and a shortage of GPs. There is no getting away from the fact the NHS needs more investment, so we must also ensure that plans to deal with rising demand on the NHS, as outlined in the Five Year Forward View, are backed with proper funding.”


The public can also find local information on where to go to get the right care, right now for common health conditions, such as sore throats and diarrhoea and vomiting, and contact details for local urgent care services at www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net

Simply select your symptom, key in your location or postcode and www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net will work out which services are right for you, right now, and which of these are the closest.